Ty Tengan


Associate Professor,
College of Social Sciences

A’o aku, a’o mai (teach, learn), a dualistic, reciprocal, relational mode of knowledge transmission and acquisition is the philosophical grounding and organizing principle of Dr. Ty Kawika Tengan’s teaching practices. Professor in both Ethnic Studies and Anthropology, he identifies three principles on which a’o rests: that everyone is a teacher-student; we all have kuleana (responsibilities) in the process of active learning, and teaching is a vehicle for social change. Professor Tengan has witnessed that land-based pedagogies that incorporate service learning bring to life a practice of a’o as participatory knowledge production. An Ethnic Studies colleague credits the resounding success of the College’s Nā Ko’oko’o Native Hawaiian leadership program to Dr. Tengan’s a’o approach. In this unique program, he inspired Mānoa undergraduates, non-traditional students, and high school students to become collaborative, responsible, steadfast leaders while striving for their own academic success. An Anthropology colleague characterizes the fabric of Professor Tengan’s teaching practices as incorporating anthropological holism, critical thinking, self-reflection, experiential learning, engagement/advocacy, and qualitative research methods woven together throughout all his courses. In distinctive forms of expression, students speak of being “humbled that a well-respected Hawaiian leader and scholar does not entitle himself but rolls up his sleeves and gets into the work with all his haumana, leading by example. They respond passionately to experiences that transformed them by facilitating intergenerational relationships unlike any class they had ever experienced. One speaks of the efficacy of lessons from the ‘āina in this way, “The land can be the greatest teacher [and] teach you things no one ever could, exposing us to true leadership qualities and lessons unbiased by any perspective.” It is Professor Ty Kawika Tengan’s steadfast believe that “the a’o of our land and our ancestors, both present and past, holds the key for true educational transformation.”

College of Social Sciences